Friday, February 22, 2008

An Evening with John Lithgow and Carol Muske-Dukes

Last night I was typing up solutions to a recent homework for a discrete mathematics course. It was late, late afternoon, early evening and I was looking forward to spending an evening listening to John Lithgow and Carol Muske-Dukes at USC's Annenberg Center. The discussion between these two lovers of language was aptly titled, "The Theater of Language." John Lithgow was introduced by the dean of USC's theater school as a three time Emmy and a two time Tony winner actor and comedian. More importantly, she told us of his kind, and generous character. He had this air, this presence of a man who has lived and someone with great wisdom, wit and charm. He opened up by describing how he fell in love with a poem he had heard being recited when he was seven years old. He then got up from his chair and went to the podium and recited this poem with the finesse, courage, and mental fortitude of an experienced thespian veteran. Needless to say, the audience was spellbound. The recitation was by heart, and went on for a good ten minutes or so. It is no wonder then that he is a two time Tony winner. He read from his new book, entitled, "The Poet's Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family", which is an anthology of his favorite poems.

Carol Muske-Dukes is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. She read some beautiful poems from her book of poems, entitled, "Sparrow". Apparently, Carol's late husband and John Lithgow were extremely close friends. She wrote "Sparrow" as an elegy for her late husband.

John Lithgow read from William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and some other noteworthy contemporary poets.

Seth Lloyd @ USC

I went to an interesting talk on campus today. Seth Lloyd who works in quantum information theory at MIT, spoke about his new paper, entitled, "Quantum Private Queries". Here's the problem description.

Imagine a communication scenario where you are given two parties, namely, Alice and Bob, who are spatially separated, let's say, and share a quantum communication channel. The latter just means that they can send quantum information between each other. Bob has access to a huge database. Alice would like to query Bob's database and retrieve an answer without Bob knowing the answer as well. If he cheats, she will come to know about it. Classically, a naive approach would be for Alice to send for example a million queries to Bob and Bob sends back a million answers from his database. One Alice gets the million answers she can look up the correct one. But you can see how this is inefficient. Quantum mechanically one can do the same in a very efficient manner. They get drastic reductions in communication and computational complexity. Later in the talk, he also touched upon how one can go about building a quantum random access memory (qRAM) device.

If you are interested in reading about the "Quantum Private Query" paper, you can find it on the arxiv here.

His qRAM paper is here.

Seth has also written a book, entitled, " Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos." I had my copy autographed by him, heh heh. He was relating all these crazy stories where he was sitting in a hot tub with Sergey and Larry (Google founders) and talking about the quantum Internet.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Scott Aaronson on the "Limits of Quantum Computers"

I have been reading Scott Aaronson's article on "The Limits of Quantum Computers". He has posted a rough draft of this article on his blog (Shtetl-Optimized) here. This article was originally intended for Scientific American. You can buy an online version at the Scientific American website here.

Jacaranda @ First Presbyterian

Last Saturday (02/16/08), I found myself at the First Presbyterian Church on second street in Santa Monica, listening to some beautiful classical music being performed in an exquisite space. Jacaranda is a music program of the First Presbyterian Church and their program includes both classical and modern music. I was first introduced to this series by my dear friend Sarah Thornblade, and I have been attending this series on and off for three years now.
I am particularly excited about this series right now because they will be performing Olivier Messiaen's important works for the next two years. They will also be performing the works of composers who influenced him. For instance, last Saturday's performance included Isaac Albeniz's "Ferez from Iberia", Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition", and Peter Tchaikovsky's "Trio in a minor, opus 50". The first two pieces were in piano and the last one was a trio of piano, cello and the violin. USC's Joel Pargman played the violin, while the piano in the first two pieces was beautifully played by Eduardo Delgado.
The sanctuary within the church has been renovated and looks fresh, clean and very classy. I was a little saddened to see that the old mid-century-modern furnishings were no longer there to greet the audience, but I guess you just have to let go of some things in life. I highly recommend this series if you are a lover of contemporary-classical music.